Wading the waters of college sports in South Florida.
By Sean Gordon
Like every other university with sports teams, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is navigating the uncertainties of proceeding with fall sports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of June 8, student-athletes are back on campus in Boca Raton. When asked about FAU’s plans for the 2020 season, Athletics Director Brian White said plans are underway with FAU’s Student Health Services and Boca Regional Hospital. They will ensure student-athletes are tested for COVID-19 and that steps are being taken in the right direction.
In addition to testing for athletes, the athletics program is operating under county and state ordinances in regard to social distancing for all their voluntary team practice sessions.
“Athletes have their temperature screened when they walk in, and no one shares equipment,” White said. “It’s a different environment, but the students are all wearing masks and they’ve done a great job with it so far.”
With variables changing weekly, there are no concrete answers for schedules or even a season start date. White and the rest of the athletics program are working to ensure multiple plans are in place to execute the fall sports season. More guidance is coming from the NCAA in the near future.
“There’s a football oversight committee that’s been created,” White said. “That will give us a lot more national guidance.”
Bringing Back Fans
The next big challenge schools across the nation will face—if and when sports are able to resume—is stadium activity and fan attendance. The goal for White and FAU Athletics is to get to a point where students and fans can attend a game in-person in some capacity to cheer on their Owls.
But in order for that to happen, they first must make sure that is safe for all of those in attendance.
“We’re currently modeling all the potential CDC recommendations that have been discussed,” White said.” It may be 25% capacity, maybe its 50%, and maybe it’s no fans at all.”
At the moment, football seems to dominate the national conversation when it comes to the return of college athletics. While other sports often fall to the back burner, White thinks it’s just as important to include them.
“[FAU has] 19 sports, and I see them as all being connected,” White said. “My thought is if there is a safe way to have one, then there is a safe way to have another. To me, the question is not ‘will there be a football season,’ but ‘will there be fall sports’ in general.”
As of now, FAU plans to continue all fall sports as previously scheduled. The university will make the necessary changes as the CDC and NCAA offer more information and guidance regarding the operations of college athletics.